Love & the New York Times


The 20th Century has been called the American Century. Perhaps more than a bit of hubris there, but not without solid reasons, not least of which is the fact that Henry Luce coined the name. Since Henry Luce owned Time, Life and many of the other magazines that defined American life for much of the century, the tag stuck. But Luce’s flip term wasn’t just the exuberance of a cultural cheerleader. America began the century as a brash youngster dipping her toe into the Game of Empire. The century ended with an unchallenged America stretched across the globe, an imperial power of unprecedented reach in fact if not in title.

But the tag line for the roll call of centuries is not ours’ to give. Future historians will have the final say. Whether they commemorate the emergence of empire or some flight of whimsy is their call. However it can be said that no century before the 20th witnessed such a breadth and depth of change. But along with the many good things that came of age in the 20th Century, it witnessed mass murder on an industrial scale. Different names are used to describe mass murder; i.e. war, holocaust, genocide, as if the reason for their butchery mattered to the dead? Human beings killed other human beings in truly staggering numbers no matter what word we use to describe it.

It is not that human beings in any other century are strangers to mass murder. But like everything else in the 20th Century, we did mass murder bigger and better. Pick the culture and the century, examples of mass murder, genocide, and holocaust are easily found. Before the need to accommodate social justice concerns forced science out of the social sciences, anthropologists nicknamed Homo Sapiens, the killer ape. Leaving aside the affectations of higher education’s lemmings, the nickname provides a valuable insight into who and what human beings are.

But the 20th Century distinguished itself by both the how and the why for mass murder. As to how, technology transformed mass murder just like it transformed everything else. But as for the why we engage in mass murder, the 20th Century broke virgin ground. The great slaughters that defined the 20th Century were birthed by ideology. We will give WWI an out on ideology, even though it plowed the ground allowing ideological weeds to grow.

Ideology is a newcomer to the list of humanity’s “Top 10 Really Bad Ideas”. Like so much else that is rancid in Western Civilization, ideology was born in France, a bastard child of their revolution in the 1790’s. Human beings have always killed, singly or en masse to satisfy our appetite for wealth, land, power, etc. Later we started killing over religion. But ideology introduced something else, the nuclear option among reasons to kill our fellow humans if you will.

The 20th Century nurtured two separate ideologies that broke all existing boundaries on what people would do to each other. We know the two ideologies today as Fascism & Communism. In very broad strokes, World War II is the name of the conflict to defeat Fascism, with the Cold War defining the conflict against Communism. Tens of millions died on the battlefields, military and civilian, in those wars. In large part, the 20th Century was the American Century because it was America providing the reach and resources that finally stopped each of them, at least temporarily.

A dubious reasoning process seasoned with a healthy dosing of political opportunism has identified Fascism with the political right. I guess Fascism is a conservative cause? In the same way, Communism has been identified with the political left. I guess Communism is a progressive or a liberal cause? In any case, we must take the distinction based on our trusting faith in the political logic of journalists if we are to discuss them with relevance for today. As for my own limited understanding, any actual differences between the two have always eluded me.

Fascism was defeated in a terrible war, probably the most terrible war in the history of the human race. But out of that horror, Fascism was rendered unspeakable. Everything and anything tainted with Fascism is forever rendered appalling, gruesome, heinous, detestable. At least we hope so. Of course there are deviant personalities in dark corners professing to be Nazis or just garden-variety fascists, just like we find repulsive creepy crawly things under rocks. But Fascism, at least for now, is a taboo thing in the great mainstreams of Western Civilization.

Communism was defeated as well, kind of, but it was not a war like the one ending Fascism. This is not to say that Communism was defeated without blood sacrifice. Millions died in the border wars containing the contagion. Uncounted tens of millions died in peacetime, killed by their own countrymen. We have learned that whatever else might be said of it, Communism’s truly singular defining characteristic is its willingness, in fact its eagerness, to kill its own people.

But Communism was finally defeated in fact, if not always in regime, because its own internal contradictions tore it apart. Any society whose organizing principles are at odds in a serious way with the realities of the Universe and human nature will eventually break apart. And so it was with Communism.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum. While everyone remembers Fascism as an unspeakable horror, Communism triggers a dreamy “April Love” kind of feeling for many in America. There are those who cherish their youthful infatuation with Communism. They slip into dreamy romanticism as they look at old photos of themselves wearing berets, sporting tattered Che Guevara t-shirts. They daydream of the days gone by in college, proudly carrying Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book to weekly meetings of their cadre, oops, I mean study group.

It is hard to escape the realization that Communism captured a secret place in the heart, never relinquished, of many of our coastal elites. Viewing the wreckage of Communism, whenever and wherever tried, they defend it as a good idea that never got a real chance. Communism was a noble idea, in the process ignoring that back in the day many thought Fascism a noble idea as well.

Why is Communism such a failure in practice, though so many of our best and brightest believe it noble in thought? A common refrain among the apologists is that Communism failed because the West oppressed it. Along with every other ill in the world today, the oppression of those nasty old white men ruined the beauty of the Communist ideal. If Communism had just been given a chance, a “safe space” as it were, it would have been a resounding success. Every time these Adorable dreamers hear John Lennon’s Imagine, they get weak in the knees, their blood rushing from their head to that part of their anatomy associated with the erotic.

November 7, just past, was the 100th year anniversary of Communism’s major league debut. The Russian Revolution, the overthrow of the Czar, actually happened six months earlier, in March of 1917. A nascent democracy had come into being then, governing Russia for the next few months. But Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by his alias Lenin, and his Bolsheviks had no tolerance for democracy. On November 7, 1917, Lenin’s Bolsheviks kicked out the moderates, a parliamentary government headed by Alexander Kerensky, and the first Communist government, a so-called Dictatorship of the Proletariat, became a reality. The Soviet Union, the first of its kind, was born like those that followed in the midst of riots, fire and blood.

In good faith, I must share with you that Vladimir Ilyich and I may be distantly related. Lenin’s mother, Anna Groskopf, and I share the same last name, a fairly rare last name, not all that common even back in the Ukraine where we both come from. And the fact is, Vladimir Ilyich and I appear to share a certain fondness for boldly expressive facial hair. What can I say – the world is a strange place.

More than anything else, it was the cold blooded methodical executions of six million to seven million Jews and other “undesirables” in the German Holocaust giving Fascism its odious stain. That deed of infamy is remembered with horror. There are museums dedicated to the victims of the German Holocaust everywhere, from Washington DC to Germany to China and everywhere in between. But as we commemorate the German Holocaust, with no words adequately expressing our horror and revulsion, Communism’s almost numberless Holocaust’s have seemingly been excused or forgotten.

The deaths in the German Holocaust, unbelievable as they are, pale in comparison to the Communist record. The death toll of mass killings under Russian communism is estimated from 85-100 million. The death toll of mass killings under Chinese communism is estimated to be in a similar range. But perhaps the quick death accorded victims of the Nazi’s by poison gas is so wretched that forgetfulness is not allowed. It seems the Communists use of a Nagant 9 mm for an even quicker death by a bullet in the back of the head, or the unseen slow death of deliberate starvation on the wind swept Ukrainian plains or the macabre death of naked prisoners in arctic labor camps can be forgotten, excused or even justified as necessary under the circumstances.

Love has a way of excusing the truth. How many abused women return to the man that beat them because of a misplaced love? What other reason than love allows for the benign neglect, for our pathetic forgetfulness of those millions of dead? Communism has a clear record, having been tried in many places in many ways by many cultures. From Venezuela to Cuba to Vietnam to Russia it has failed dismally while killing uncounted numbers of its own countrymen. The poor starve to death in a worker’s paradise while the middle class is shot or shipped to Siberia, perhaps beaten to death in the village square. Yet the illusive dream of communism remains the unrequited love of Western intellectuals and … many of our Adorables.

If you think this an unfair judgment, think on this odd coincidence. Remember back in August of this year to the events in Charlotte, NC. You will remember the riot in Charlottesville, in which one of the rioters was killed. Adorable America rose up in outrage. All the news feeds, most prominently the New York Times, excoriated President Trump in the harshest possible terms for not fiercely condemning the “neo-nazis” in the Charlotte riot. On that very day that the New York Times bloviated on their front page about the KKK & Nazi’s, those same front pages of that same New York Times advertised a featured article in the Sunday paper with the title, “Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism”.

While the Times coyly put “Socialism & Sex” in the headline (they are in business to attract readers and make money after all), the article was actually about how much better life for was for women in the Soviet Union under Communism. Leaving aside the Times tiring focus on the ghetto of gender, they were also a bit disingenuous don’t you think? Most common folks, deplorable as they are, always thought the Soviet Union was about Communism not Socialism. The article was written by the very respectable Kristen Ghodsee, a graduate of UC Berkeley and a fully tenured Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at Bowdoin College. One wonders whether Joshua Chamberlain turned over in his grave that day?

Well, maybe that one slipped by the editors of the New York Times, given their very grave concern over the threat to the American way of life posed by neo-nazi’s and the KKK in Charlotte, NC. One might forgive it as an editorial whoops, that is if one is unaware that the New York Times is running an extensive and far ranging series of articles on the world’s century of experience with Communism, a retrospective by the New York Times under the byline of The Red Century. (https://www.nytimes.com/column/red-century)

Another New York Times headliner with an interesting point of view was featured on October 30, “How to Parent Like a Bolshevik”. In case you were wondering, it turns out that the Bolshevik’s were A-1 top of the line parents, much better than those foolish Christians in America agitating for charter schools. The piece, praising the parenting skills of committed communists, was penned by one Yuri Slezkine; a fully tenured Professor of Russian History at UC Berkeley. I guess it’s still the summer of love out there in Berkeley.

A common theme in these articles is that life for people under Communism wasn’t so bad, in fact it was pretty good if you believe in “human rights”. It is an article of faith in the New York Times retrospective that Communism’s perceived bad points are a result of a misunderstanding or the West’s oppression of those earnest defenders of “human rights”. It’s funny but I never realized that the Kremlin’s Lubyanka Prison and Siberia’s Gulags were outposts guarding the “human rights” of the common people. One is left to wonder why all those people were shot trying to climb over the Berlin Wall. Another interesting sidelight on these articles is that there aren’t any outraged letters to the editor, at least letters that make it into print. Imagine the media outcry if any American newspaper printed an article, “How to Parent Like a Fascist” or “Better Sex with Mein Kampf”.

Of course my picking on these issues in the New York Times is definitely of no interest to the Grey Lady herself. I suspect the number of Deplorables reading the New York Times to be vanishingly small. The number of Deplorables, like myself, actually subscribing to the New York Times can probably be counted on one’s fingers with a pinkie or two left over. But that is my point, sad though it is. The New York Times is the newspaper of America’s Adorables, a bubble of self absorbed introspection into their collective navel. I am picking on the New York Times, but they simply print what America’s Adorables think and believe.

It is true that in economic matters, the Wall Street Journal, the other newspaper of national importance, differs politically from the New York Times. But the Wall Street Journal is largely clueless and without influence outside of business circles. It was not always so. Only a few decades in the past, the Wall Street Journal once featured writers with influence and vision outside Wall Street like Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Vermont Royster, etal. No longer.

The Adorables run America while the Deplorables labor in the trenches, charged with making the country work. Many Adorables read the Wall Street Journal and are totally on board with the Journal’s thoughts on economics and business. After all, anybody thinking the New York Times has a clue about economics is a professor, a millennial or Paul Krugman’s mother. Some Adorables even agree with the Wall Street Journal on political issues as well. They would have voted for Jeb Bush or John Kasich or even Ted Cruz in a pinch, but Donald Trump was a bridge too far.

But outside of the economic logic that is the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times speaks for the Adorables, their beliefs, their world-view, their truth. And the Adorables speak for America, as well as run it. And by and large the Adorables do a pretty good job of running it, particularly for themselves. If you are educated and live in the “good” part of urban America, life is pretty good. Your life is prosperous. Your job is fulfilling, at least as fulfilling as any job ever is. In the course of your work you exercise power, but do not necessarily have to take any responsibility for the consequences. But you also realize how fragile that good spot is. It wouldn’t take much to upset your particular applecart. Not everyone from your social circle survived the financial collapse ten years ago.

There is a general nervousness in the air of Adorable America. And now it appears the people in the trenches, the Deplorables, are getting restless. The Adorables are gradually becoming aware that life is different in Deplorable America and not just financially. The culture that has been created by the Adorables is a cesspit from which there is no protection and getting worse. The faceless unresponsive institutions that employ America’s Adorables control nearly every part of life. The country seemingly has no leadership, certainly no leadership with anything like virtue or integrity on display. But what really scares everyone, Deplorables and Adorables alike, is that even the corrupt leadership available appears to be incompetent.

Perhaps I was misleading myself when I said earlier that the difference between Communism and Fascism was hard to see. There are clear differences. In fact, I pointed out the big difference earlier. Communism has what can only be called an addiction to killing its own people. To say otherwise ignores the obvious.

But there is another difference between Communism and Fascism. While Fascism is simply another excuse for dictatorship built out of the inchoate scream of people desperate for something to blame, Communism is a theology. Communism demands faith, which accounts for its lethal nature. Nothing less than unquestioned belief will do. Like Christianity, it also promises hellfire for those who do not believe. But Communism’s hellfire is not in the hereafter but now.

Communism has so has much in common with religion. It does not concern itself with anything less than people’s soul. It was Karl Marx, the godfather of Communism, who said; “religion is the opiate of the masses”. Turning that back on itself, it might well be said that Communism is “the religion of the intellectuals”. Given the strong relationship between intellectual vision and the Adorable world view, a cynic such as myself might remark that a “religion of the intellectuals” explains the editorial focus of the New York Times.

Why else would the New York Times display such a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde attitude toward Russia. No one thinks Vladimir Putin is a nice guy, but the Times does appear a trifle paranoid about present-day Russia and Putin. This is in marked contrast to their “Why can’t we just be friends?” editorial focus before Mikhail Gorbachev folded the tent on Communism. Their present day single-minded focus on Russian interference in the recent election is ironic considering their treatment of Joe Stalin, et.al. during the heyday of Soviet Communism when Russia really was trying to subvert the United States. The New York Times and their Moscow correspondent, Walter Duranty, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for their coverage of the Soviet Union.

As it turned out, everything Walter Duranty reported and the New York Times printed back then about the Soviet Union was either gullible belief at best or more likely, deliberate falsification. Not so different in tone from their current retrospective, The Times printed articles during the 1920-30’s singing the glories of Communist life, marveling at how Russia’s peasants, freed under Communism, were growing so much food that Russia was becoming the world’s leading exporter of grain. The Times regularly chastised America for not being more helpful and open to a close relationship with the USSR. As Walter Duranty and the New York Times were basking in the glow of a Pulitzer Prize earned by their false reporting of Russia’s economic miracle, millions of Russian peasants were starving in deliberate famines as Communist commissars took their food and their animals from them at gunpoint.

It wasn’t that the truth about life under Communism was a deep dark secret at the time. Anyone who really cared to know the truth in the United States knew the facts. My own grandparents received letters from their brothers and sisters remaining in Russia asking, begging, for food or money to be sent back. With heavy hearts my grandparents did not do so, as it was well known that the food and money would simply disappear into the hands of the commissars. Even backward farmers in Nebraska knew the truth about life under Communism. But the New York Times virulently attacked anyone having the nerve to say anything contrary to their own stories of the worker’s paradise taking shape in Russia. Perhaps as the New York Times cheers the statues of Robert E. Lee being torn down in America, they might consider returning their own 1932 Pulitzer.

The folks in the United States inclined to give Communism a pass, like the New York Times, might want to recall how it was that the Fascists came to power. It was a time of open borders, of internationalism. The League of Nations was creating a new international order. A new class, an educated meritocracy, was going to run the world along enlightened lines. The urban elites, no longer restrained by the moral codes of the Victorian Era, were losing no time exploring the outer limits of debauchery in their new freedom. It was a time of anything goes. It was the Jazz Age, the Roaring Twenties. It was the time of “flappers”, speakeasies and burlesque shows.

It was a grand time to be alive if you were urban, educated and employed in a “knowledge worker” type of job. But the economy was not so good out in the country or in the factory. Floods of refugees from the dislocations of WWI were taking jobs, squatting on land and competing with the citizenry for wages in a race to the bottom. Men who had endured the horrors of four years in the trenches during WWI were losing their jobs to young immigrants while their children were being seduced by the hedonism of the cities.

The settled rhythms of life were being upset by the new technologies of the cinema and radio. The cinema celebrated life styles and behavior that was scandalous. The nightclubs in the cities frequented by the young were seen as dens of iniquity because of the dancing, the drugs and the behavior on display there.

And then there were the Communists. Students and the urban poor were demonstrating in the cities. Street fighting was an everyday occurrence. The universities and the arts were hotbeds of “The Resistance” to Germany’s leadership. Communist agitators were on soapboxes in parks and city centers urging on revolution against “oppression”.

The conservative part of society, the managers, the shopkeepers, the professional class and army officers had seen this movie before. It was the Russian experience of a decade before, just before the revolution that brought Lenin to power. They knew what had happened in Russia to people like themselves when the Communists took over. There was no way they were going to allow that, not if they could help it.

Most sober minded Germans thought Adolf Hitler a buffoon, a loud-mouthed narcissist from the beer halls of Munich, But on the other hand, better a buffoon than the rule of the commissars. And so it began. The sober minded Germans, most especially the Jews, believed that those silly Fascist ideas about racial purity wouldn’t amount to much in Germany. Germany was widely believed to be the most civilized country in Europe, the country most tolerant of minorities, the country most law abiding.

But nobody in power seemed to give a damn about Germany. The urban elite was either love struck by Communism or trying to do business in France/England/United States. The politicians in Berlin were in thrall to the bureaucrats of the League of Nations. Foreign immigrants were overrunning Germany from the poverty stricken east and south of Europe. Refugees from the horrors of Russian Communism were everywhere telling of devastation and horror in their homeland.

In the centers of power, in the salons of the creative class, in the faculty drawing rooms, those entrusted with Germany’s leadership forgot that the Germans were a proud people. Those simple Germans out in the countryside loved their country and they were proud of it. Those urban elites had forgotten the people that actually made things, built things, grew things, did things that made the country work. Those rubes raising families, attending church, working on farms and in factories felt their leaders had forgotten them, had forgotten this was Germany, not France or England. At least Adolph Hitler and his Fascist’s were for Germany. Hitler promised to make Germany great again. For all their other disreputable ideas, the Fascists would at least make people proud to be Germans once more. And so the Fascists came to power.

In all fairness to the New York Times, they now understand that America west of the Hudson River and east of the Pacific Coast is Terra Incognito. Since last November they have been sending reporters out into that vast wasteland of Middle America, trying to understand these strange people. These reporters from the Times timidly venturing out into fly-over country are comfortable reporting on opioid addiction and gun deaths, but otherwise they seem lost.

We really aren’t that hard to understand. We just want to get on with life. We aren’t racists or sexists or whatever is the bias de jour. To be honest we don’t even think much about those things. We realize there are problems and we are sometimes blind, but we try to treat people like we would like to be treated. We are proud of our country, but want to make it better. We try to be good neighbors. We try to be good Christians, but recognize that America is founded on religious liberty, to be or not to be.

For all of his faults, Richard Nixon was an astute political strategist. The Deplorables are not a new phenomenon in American life. Nixon recognized us fifty years ago, back when Hillary may well have been sporting a t-shirt bearing that certain likeness.  Just as Hillary did, Nixon gave us a descriptive name, The Silent Majority. We really don’t like Donald Trump. We think he is an astute politician, but a loud-mouthed narcissist. It isn’t that we love Donald Trump, but we are frightened of the commissars.

2 Responses to “Love & the New York Times”

  1. Bob Keller says:

    Hi Bill
    This might be fun. Although I have not read the above article because I don’t have time at the moment, I’ll come back over the weekend to read it. The title is thought inspiring which was probably your motive.
    I’m responding to your opening comments about the American media because the Bill Groskopf I know couldn’t possibly be believing the horseshit that Donald Trump is tossing around about Fake News. He lies about everything, and the craziest part about it is that about 35% of our population claim they believe him! I don’t believe that, but they simply want to rebell against the establishment and somehow, I mean somehow, those 35% got their candidate into the White House.
    It’s an amazing story but their agenda is very troubling to me. More later …….
    Thanks for putting this platform out there. I hope you are doing well.

  2. Jeffrey N Esbenshade says:

    President Trump is a union property manager and contractor from NY City with a big ego.He is 100% nothing, that has ever been seen before in Washington DC. Thats why I voted for him. I am tired of PC answers from all political persons, people in higher education, the media and the Hollywood narcissus.No ones does whats good
    for the USA, its what keeps them in power. Term limits would solve many of our troubles. Some kind of balanced budget law.
    I am tired of NATO spending my money and blood when USA could spend our taxes for roads, mental illness, better education for basic skills sets,tired of the beltway
    over reach of every thing in life. EPA was set to regulate stock ponds! No one looks at the big picture and thinks long term.No one thinks of cause and effect of public policy.

    The public policy of taking God out of education and public life in general has
    caused USA to lose its moral compass. Men of power to make women submit to their sex demands, not only is it wrong, but its sinful, just like 2 men getting
    “married”. When men and women do not go to church then children don’t go, no bible
    study at home or at school, we don’t know what is sin, right or wrong.

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